Unfinished Business: New report shows routes to an elected Second Chamber

Jessica Garland, Director of Policy and Research

Posted on the 11th December 2023

Reform of the House of Lords is both hugely popular with the public and very long overdue. Yet in any serious discussion of how to achieve reform, the same questions come up: What about Commons primacy? Can we have two elected chambers? Won’t it lead to gridlock? Not only is there an answer to these questions, but there has also been broad agreement over the years on solving them.

Over the last twenty-four years since the 1999 reforms (which removed the majority of hereditary peers) there have been numerous draft papers, bills and committee inquiries. And what is striking about these proposals, is the many areas of agreement.

Looking at other elected chambers around the world, it is clear that there are many ways of creating a diverse, experienced and stable second chamber, chosen by the people who live under its rules.

Our new report Unfinished Business: Routes to an Elected Second Chamber draws on these examples and past reform proposals, reviewing options for reforming the Lords to create a smaller elected chamber that serves the interests of Parliament as a whole. Drawing on examples from around the world, it considers what roles it should perform and what composition might suit those roles, and what methods of election could be used to choose members.

House of Lords reform has been unfinished business now for well over a century. Meanwhile we continue to have a parliament in which our elected representatives are outnumbered by our unelected ones and voters have no say over who enters the upper chamber, or leaves. Our recent polling finds that half of the public (47%) say that they should have the power to choose the members of the House of Lords via elections.1ERS polling by Savanta. 2,283 UK adults aged 18+ between the 24th and 27th November 2023. Data were weighted to be representative of the UK by age, gender, region and social grade.

Countless parliamentary hours have been spent debating, reviewing and voting on reform of the Lords over the last twenty-five years. Not only are there many areas of agreement on reform, including amongst peers themselves, there is also cross-party support for change.

House of Lords reform is long overdue. Our report, Unfinished Business: Routes to an Elected Second Chamber, provides a range of options for completing the reform and bringing our parliament into the 21st Century.

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